Strengths: The largest number of features of the devices tested
Weaknesses: Difficult to configure and administrate
Verdict: A complete enterprise firewall loaded with more features than most organisations will ever need
An appliance that runs on a 1U rack-mounted device, the Sidewinder provides two ethernet interfaces that can be addressed and configured separately. This is primarily a proxy-based firewall with options to perform stateful inspection of protocols as a secondary configuration.
Using both major firewall types enables the Sidewinder to provide many types of protection. It provides a logging and reporting mechanism that allows the administrator to see the results of traffic passed through the firewall.
The installation is a complex process, as is the case with most enterprise-class firewalls. The initial configuration takes place through a serial connection and a hyperterm session, followed by a proprietary configuration utility. Once the initial process is complete, additional configuration is done on a network interface and a proprietary application.
Both the installation and configuration were quite complex and took more than one hour, while other products took only minutes to configure. Installing the management client alone took more than 20 minutes. Once the initial configuration is performed with hyperterminal, it is difficult to find the default password to log into the Sidewinder device.
The Sidewinder ships with a hard copy of a getting-started guide, which walks the administrator through the initial configuration and administration of the device. Additional documentation is available on the printed administration guide, an 800-page book that covers the entire breadth of the Sidewinder in depth. The documentation also installs as an electronic copy with the configuration and management client.
Support is available at an additional charge. For 24/7 support, the annual fee is 21 per cent of the purchase price. The Secure Computing website has a password-protected knowledge base, which is available to current users. Three years of hardware support is included with the purchase price of the device.
The Sidewinder comes in a wide spectrum of specifications, with prices ranging from £900 to £45,000, which means there should be a model to suit most budgets. We find the Sidewinder to be an enterprise firewall with all the features an organisation could ever need, which is why we award it our Best Buy.